Thursday, March 06, 2014

Appalachian coal firm to pay $27.5 million for water pollution, largest civil penalty ever levied by EPA

Alpha Natural Resources agreed in federal court at Charleston, W.Va., to pay a record $27.5 million civil penalty for nearly 6,300 cases of pollution at the company's operations across 79 active coal mines and 25 coal processing plants in Appalachia, Ken Ward reports for the Charleston Gazette. Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will share half the fine; the agreement also applies to locations in Virginia and Tennessee.

As part of the agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bristol, Va., company will also be required to improve its water treatment practices, Ward writes. It will spend $200 million "to install and operate wastewater treatment systems and to implement comprehensive, system-wide upgrades to reduce discharges of pollution from coal mines."

Other plans "include building new treatment facilities, but others would piggyback on treatment operations already underway as a result of previous court settlements with citizen groups," Ward writes. "The deal also involves some locations where Alpha will deal with selenium by pumping contaminated water into old underground mines."

"Monitoring records attached to the complaint show that in some cases, the releases exceeded permit limits by as much as 35 times," Allie Robinson Gibson writes for the Bristol Herald Courier.

Robert G. Dreher, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, said "The unprecedented size of the civil penalty in this settlement sends a strong message to others in this industry that such egregious violations of the nation's Clean Water Act will not be tolerated." (Read more)

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